The Roller Coaster Performance of Carmen

Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera (better known as the MET), has brought about some striking changes for the 2012-2013 opera season.  According to the October 2012 edition of the playbill, he plans to find a balance of productions that will appeal to audiences of all kinds.  For the last few years, the Met has featured Carmen, a famous 19th century George Bizet opera.  With his new changes comes a change in casting, as Gelb has given Anita Rachvelishvili the responsibility of playing the beautiful, seductive Carmen.

Anita Rachvelishvili gives an impression of power and strength when she first appears in the cigarette factory in Seville.  Her mezzo-soprano vocal range allows her to hit her notes well and convinces the audience of the true fire within Carmen.  Her superb acting is reflected when she flirtatiously stabs Don Jose with the rose.  But as the night progressed, Carmen’s performance becomes rather lackluster.  Her voice begins to fade with time, and it almost takes away from her excellent acting ability.

Contrary to Carmen, Micaela, a peasant girl played by Kate Royal, seems to outshine the star later on in the production.  During Act 3, Micaela’s singing echoes gracefully throughout the opera house when she tries to convince Don Jose to return home with her.  Her counterpart, Don Jose, may well have been the premier performer of the evening.  Younghoon Lee played the role of the young corporal within the army.  His powerful voice effectively shows his passion, especially when he quarrels with Carmen in Act 3.

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Perhaps one of the more impressing sights of the opera was the rotating set.  As Act 1 opens, Micaela comes searching for Don Jose at his army base.  During the same act, the set completely morphs into a cigarette factory with the floor and building automatically rotating.  This revolving stage keeps the audience’s attention, and allows them to easily transition from one scene to the next.  Of course the scenery of the opera would not have been complete without the entrancing costumes.

Carmen, a young, seductive, Spanish factory worker wears an intricate black dress that has floral black and white sleeves.  Her bold wardrobe assures the audience that Carmen is not your stereotypical woman working at the factory.  Don Jose, along with the rest of the military men, wore detailed green uniforms that very much resemble the uniforms of soldiers during the 19th century.  The children working in the factory had the simplest and possibly the best outfits of the evening.  Their ripped-up, raggedy shirts and gowns effectively reflected the strenuous conditions of working in the factory.

The Orchestra does a magnificent job during the evening, remaining completely in unison for the entire three and a half hours.  My only main criticism of the evening was during the final act of Carmen.  The entire opera was building up suspense for the death of Carmen, and the acting and music did not do her slaughter justice.  The acting was cheesy, the orchestra was nonexistent, and the use of lighting was ineffective.  It seemed as though what started off to be a classic performance came spiraling down with the final moments of the evening.

Photo Credit: Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera


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